The Jean Noblet Tarot de Marseille was created circa 1650 France, during a 250 year long exile of Jews from public life. King Charles had officially banished the French Jewish population in 1394 which forced all remaining forms of Jewish observance to become entirely hidden from the public eye. When the Jean Noblet Tarot is deciphered through a Judaic lens of understanding it is revealed to be a secret vessel for Hebrew letters, Torah stories, Judaic ritual objects and Jewish holy days. From the card's systematic and comprehensive concealment of Judaica, we can surmise that it was originally designed to serve as a tool for clandestine Jewish education. Below are some of the traditional sources that inspired the Noblet's Moon card, which is a secret depiction of the Passover story.
In Old French and Spanish the word 'langosta' means both lobster and locust. The card's lobster is a visual pun.
Can you find the traditional three matzah of the Passover Seder table hidden in the card? Can you find the egg and shank bone?
The letters mem מ and tzadik צ ,the thirteenth and eighteenth letters of the Hebrew AlephBet, can be found concealed in both the thirteenth and eighteenth cards of the Noblet Tarot. Below you can see the how the sofit, end of word forms, ם and ץ, are concealed in the card.
The sages would convey secrets of Torah in different permutations of the AlephBet. The AtBash ש"ב ת"א cipher entailed reversing the order of the letters so that the first letter would represents the last, the second letter the next to last and so on. A becomes Z, B becomes Y, and so forth. Mem מ and tzadik צ are the first two letters of the Hebrew word for commandment - מצוה - mitzvah מצרים Mitzrayim (Egypt) and מצה Matzah. When switched with their AtBash equivalents, the letter mem מ becomes yud י and tzadik צ becomes heh ה and together they become yud heh יה ,the first two letters of the highest name for the divine. The unique relationship between these letters is frequently elucidated in many traditional sources, one example provided below.
(א) דְכָל פִּקּוּדָא, בֵיהּ שַׁרְיָא יהו''ה, הוּא אִשְׁתַּכַּח בְּכָל אֵבֶר וְאֵבֶר, הוּא אִשְׁתַּכַּח בְּאַרְבַּע גַּוָּונִין דְּשַׂעֲרָא וּבְאַרְבַּע גַּוָּונִין דְּעִינָא, וּבְאַרְבַּע אִדְרִין דְּאוּדְנָא, וּבְאַרְבַּע גַּוְּונֵי דְאַנְפִּין, וּבְקָלָא וּבְדִבּוּרָא וּבִקְרִיאָה וַאֲמִירָה, (ובעשיה דידין) וּבְכָל אֵבֶר וְאֵבֶר דְּגוּפָא אִיהוּ יהו''ה, מְמַנָּא עַל כָּל מִצְוָה וּמִצְוָה, דְבֵיהּ מִצְוָה בְּאַ''תְּ בַּ''שׁ, מ''צ י''ה, פ''ץ ו''ה, הָא מִצְוָה יהו''ה, מצפץ, יהו''ה בְּאַ''תְּ בַּ''שׁ מצפ''ץ. וּבְרִי, כָּל אֵבָרִין אִתְקְרִיאוּ כִּנּוּיִין לִשְׁמָא דְיהו''ה, וְכָל מַלְאָכִין דְּתַלְיָין מֵהַהוּא אֵבֶר כֻּלְּהוּ סָלְקִין וְנָחֲתִין בִּשְׁלִיחוּתֵיהּ, וְכָל מָאן דְּקָרָא לְמַלְאָכִין וּלְכִנּוּיִין וְלָא בְהַהוּא אֵבֶר דִּמְמַנָּא עֲלֵיהּ, לֵית סָלִיק פְּעוּלָה בִידוֹי.
Below you can see how the Jean Noblet Tarot Moon card was transformed by generations of unknowing copyists to eventually become the Moon card of the 1909 Rider-Waite Smith Tarot. From the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot alone one would never be able to discern the card's earlier Judaic mission.
Amazingly there are many more layers of content to be discovered and deciphered in this card. (Can you find another concealed Judaic ritual object associated with the letter Mem מ? Can you find both the three and four pronged versions of the letter Shin שׁ that adorn the Tefillin of the head?) Know that all 22 of the unique picture cards of the Jean Noblet Tarot possesses a story of hidden Judaica as compelling as the one presented here. The creators of the Jean Noblet Tarot were creative giants who crafted an ingenious tool for preserving Torah knowledge in one of the darkest moments of Jewish history.